Boys and Girls Club Celebrates Hip-Hop’s 50th 

The rain didn’t stop the celebration at Knockdown Center Maspeth. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan | 

In honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, hundreds of kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens celebrated with an afternoon of double dutching, breakdancing and graffiti in Maspeth’s Knockdown Center. 

The “For the Love” event, hosted by SiriusXM and Pandora, allowed the youth to learn about the history of hip-hop in an interactive and fun way. The free event also served as a culmination of their summer youth employment program that ended last week. 

Later in the evening, the legendary Wu-Tang Clan headlined the venue to an older crowd. 

On August 11, 1973, hip-hop was born at a small back to school party in a Bronx apartment. Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, got the idea to improvise with two turntables that played snippets in a continuous loop. In his honor, a range of free celebratory events were held across all five boroughs. While Wu-Tang hails from Staten Island, Queens takes credit for Nas, LL Cool J, 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj. 

“The vision really was for this to be a community event, because hip-hop started as a basis of the community,” said Nicole Hughey, Head of Diversity, Equity and  Inclusion at SiriusXM. “We want to help inspire them to think about the historical nature of hip-hop, and to think about what they can do to take it even further. We see them as the next generation of talent that will really take us to a new level in this genre.”

Nicole Hughey, Head of DEI and Social Impact at SiriusXM, was a key organizer of the event. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Over 250 kids who attended the event are members of the BGCMQ, which serves underprivileged youth with year-round programming that focuses on academic success, a healthy lifestyle and developing good character. 

In the summer, the organization places high school students who are eligible for SYEP in various jobs and internships across the city. Some even work at the center on Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill that serves as a recreational space where students can foster a sense of community while receiving resources.  

“They have been looking forward to this,” said Kimberly Paramhance, Director of Workforce Development at the Boys and Girls Club. “It’s so exciting to have the kids here today for them to be able to broaden their horizons and see what’s out there. The timing of it couldn’t have been better.” 

SiriusXM  presented a check to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Queens. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM 

SiriusXM and Pandora, partnered with Cricket Wireless, presented the Boys & Girls Club with a check for $20,000 at the event.

“I just watched one of my kids break dance and so I didn’t even know he could break dance. That was fun,” said Paramhance, who grew up in South Ozone Park and has worked at the club for the past six years. 

Each attendee had the chance to decorate their own backpack. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

For those who wanted to pick up some breakdancing moves, local dance professionals were on site to demonstrate and guide the newbies on how to nail floor rocks and flares. With strong determination, a handful of kids kept trying until they finally landed it to a round of applause from their peers.

Each attendee also received a white backpack filled with school supplies, which also served as a blank canvas to decorate with provided stencils and spray paint. In a tucked away corner, the kids focused on designing their new backpacks with words and drawings. In honor of the art of graffiti, a blank wall was designated for spray painting. By the end of the event, it had no white space left. 

Richard Whittingham, a 15 year-old from East New York, said that he was excited to attend the celebration because he had never been to a concert before. Like many others his age at the event, he hasn’t heard of Wu-Tang, the notable group that shaped east coast hip-hop.

“Is that a dance move,” replied Whittington, who says some of his favorite hip-hop artists are Lil Tjay and Lil Tecca, all of whom were born in this century. He chose to design his backpack with the words “Be Kind” in green paint. 

Youth organization relieved after restoration of funds

SAYA was slated to lose half its budget

By Jessica Meditz

South Asian Youth Action, or SAYA, is a 501(c)3 youth development organization headquartered in Elmhurst, whose primary mission is to provide immigrants and students of color with exposure to new opportunities.

It is among several other organizations funded by the New York City Community Schools Fund, which is essentially a partnership between school staff, families, youth, and the community to ensure that students have the tools they need to learn and succeed.

According to the Community Schools website, these services include “health care, mentoring, expanded learning programs, adult education, and other services that support the whole child, engage families, and strengthen the entire community.”

For a brief period of time these organizations and their respective school communities were worried, as they were slated to lose about $9.16 million of their allocated funds from the city.

But on Friday, the city reached an agreement on a $101 billion budget for the 2023 Fiscal Year, which will restore the funds and add an additional $14 million to support the initiative.

Youth organizations like SAYA, whose most expansive program serves the South Asian student population at Richmond Hill High School, were overjoyed by the news that they’d be able to continue their services.

“I think it made us a lot more hopeful about the advocacy that we do on behalf of our youth, and that as a coalition of organizations, when we work together, we’re able to affect change on a larger scale,” Saphia Najafee, chief development officer at SAYA, said.

“We’ll certainly be doing advocacy work to make sure that we’re all set for next year,” she continued. “We’re obviously really thrilled by everything, but we also know that there’s a lot more work we need to do.”

Richmond Hill High School houses SAYA’s largest program

SAYA is part of the Coalition for Community Schools Excellence, which rallied in front of City Hall in early June to call for the restoration of funds.

They were joined by City Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, Councilwoman Sandy Nurse, and Councilman Lincoln Restler.

“Community schools in my district have become the cornerstone of our community, providing much-needed health, mental health, and family services,” Nurse said at the rally.

“The fact is, our schools alone cannot provide the full support that students and families need for our youth to get the most out of their education. These schools need partnerships to help address the life challenges that our students and families are going through: homelessness, housing insecurity, poverty, and lack of access to health care,” she continued. “The community school model has proven to increase attendance, graduation, and college acceptance rates. We need the mayor to invest the $9.16 million in funding to the 52 community schools that are facing major cuts that will completely undermine their success.”

Through this funding, SAYA receives about $900,000 to carry out their work. With the proposed cuts, they were at risk of a $400,000 total decrease.

In addition to its programming at Richmond Hill High School, SAYA also serves local schools including Thomas Edison High School, P.S. 124, and J.H.S. 202 Robert H. Goddard, where they provide mental health services, outreach for student attendance, college access programming, and after school clubs.

Sonia B. Sisodia, executive director of SAYA, said that the reason for the proposed cuts was given last year when the funding formula was changed for Community Schools by the Department of Education.

“It was framed that the DOE had created a more equitable formula, but the formula is not very equitable when it results in cuts in a high need neighborhood made up of many immigrants and mostly folks of color. Richmond Hill High School is a large high school that really relies on partnership with SAYA and the services that we’re able to provide.” she said. “Fast forward to this year, we were under the assumption—given the focus of the city on things like mental health, getting students back into the school building, and enrichment offerings as students continue to get accustomed to school and life post-pandemic—that the cuts were not likely, since these are all the various services that the Community Schools model actually supports.”

Until more details about the city’s budget become available to the public, Sisodia did not comment on the restoration of funds.

She does, however, want people to remain aware of the situation and the overall goal of SAYA, which continues to offer essential services to students since its founding in 1996.

“Our mission is to really affirm our students and our young people who don’t typically have spaces that center them, that are for them. As a South Asian myself, who went to public schools, I never had that affirmation from my school community,” Sisodia said.

“It’s so important that folks have mentors and role models that they connect with … and I think that New York City really needs to invest more in nonprofits that are led by people of color,” she continued.

“There’s not enough investment in true community based organizations.”

Young guns

Dear Editor,
Twenty-one children between the ages of 13 and 17 were killed in shootings and stabbings this year in New York City. The number of shootings of children under the age of 18 has risen to 105. This has to stop!
We need to bring back “stop and Frisk” to take guns off the street, bring back anti-gang units, and have more youth programs. Parents should not have to bury their child.
The mayor and the NYPD need to stop the killing of our youth. So far, Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped the ball.
Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.

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